The apocalyptic imagination that emerged in Judea during the Greek and Roman periods represents a unique socio-religious response to feelings of discontent and resentment engendered by pagan political hegemony. Unable to integrate the Jewish cult into the pagan imperial system,1 an atmosphere of mutual antagonism descended upon colonized Israel. Just as a viral infection prompts … Continue reading When demoniacs win: The triumph of Christ’s apocalyptic spirit
As many scholars have maintained, the Sabbath dispute stories in the Gospels lack historical verisimilitude. Few if any 1st century Jews were so strict in their observance of the Sabbath day as to reprimand deeds of healing upon it. In fact, according to the Gospels themselves, most took no issue with Jesus' Sabbath activity at … Continue reading No rest for the wicked: Jesus as Satan’s Sabbath-breaking son
In an effort to interpret history through a Christian lens the evangelists sometimes indulge in anachronistic portraiture of Jesus; that is, they retroject the experience of the believing community back into Jesus' ministry. John's depiction of Jesus as a master of extended discourse and debate, for instance, is more reflective of the late 1st century … Continue reading The demonized Gerasene and the paganized Greek: eschatological allegory in Mark 5:1-20
A number of Gospel stories reveal that Jesus sometimes delayed his healing work. On two such occasions Jesus' failure to appear resulted in death. In one instance, following a summons from Martha and Mary to heal their sick brother, Jesus "remained two days longer in the place where he was" (John 11:1-6). As expected, by … Continue reading Playing the waiting game: the theatrics of Jesus’ healings
As modern science has advanced, belief-systems that attribute human welfare and suffering to the scheming of angels and demons have retreated in equal proportion. Few Christians today would procure an exorcist to alleviate a crippled spine, for instance. Even in cases of extreme antisocial behavior, activity traditionally attributed to malevolent spirits, most modern Christians are … Continue reading Diseased demons: spirits as agents of illness
Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring you to God, by being put to death in the flesh but by being made alive in the spirit. In it he went and preached to the spirits in prison, after they were disobedient long ago when God patiently waited in the … Continue reading Why did Jesus descend into Hell?
When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through arid regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings along … Continue reading Nazareth witch trials: the problem of the returning spirit
In a comment on my post Did Christ strike the serpent's head, my friend abondarenko01 questioned my claim that the Leviathan myth could generate the link between Satan and snakes in early Christian texts like Luke 10:19, Romans 16:20, Mark 16:18, Acts 28:3-6, and 1 Corinthians 15:32. He notes that while Leviathan is an aquatic … Continue reading Putting Satan in his historical-political place
And [Jesus] could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. (Mark 6:5-6) And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. (Matthew 13:58) Matthew's subtle redaction of Mark here and elsewhere has … Continue reading “He could do no mighty work”
Among those Jews in the Greek and Roman periods who expected a Messiah, most expected him to be a son of David. This Davidic Messiah would be a new and better David; he would obey God, judge among the people of Israel, and take control of the surrounding nations. Israel would finally be safe, prosperous, … Continue reading Son of David: healer extraordinaire?